You’ve seen celebrity clinical psychologist Dr. Sherry Blake, author of The Single Married Woman: True Stories of Why Women Feel All Alone in Their Marriages, keep the Braxton sisters calm on the hit show Braxton Family Values. Now it’s your turn to sit in her chair…
Q: I need advice for interacting with my soon-to-be mother-in-law. She has always been very short with me and not personable. When I try to hold a conversation with her, she rarely completes her sentence. She was invited to her soon-to-be grandchild’s baby shower, but she didn’t show up. I’ve called her to get advice for planning events for her son, but she never calls back — she just shows up to the event. Plus, if my fiancé tells her to call me to plan an event, she will call and say, “My son told me to call you…,” as if to imply she only called because he asked her to. When I bring up her behavior to my fiancé, he just tells me to get over it. It bothers me because I would really like to nurture a relationship with her. My fiancé has been welcomed into my family wholeheartedly. He calls, visits and travels with my family, and there are no problems. Should I care about her behavior or just get over it? Help! — Jay
A: Jay, as bad as you may want a positive relationship with your mother-in-law, it could take some time. A relationship is something that has to be developed and nurtured. Right now, your soon-to-be mother-in-law is keeping her distance from you for some reason. She may not be ready to bond with you, or she might be unsure whether or not she approves of you being her daughter-in-law.
Remember, you are with her son, whom she may not be ready to let go of or share. I would not take her behavior or attitude personally. She is showing up and remains involved in what you are doing. Granted, she may not be as accepting of you, despite the fact that your family has accepted him. They are two different families. Her attitude and behavior may be more about her own feelings and less about you. One of the worst things you can do is try to force the relationship. I would limit the complaints to your fiancé about his mother. I would also suggest that you stop worrying about how your future mother-in-law is responding to you, and just be yourself. Give her a chance to get to know you. If you find yourself in a conversation with her, ask her about it. But remember, this conversation should only occur if it emerges naturally. Please do not approach her with issues that may not exist; this will only make her defensive and more distant.
Ultimately, I suggest you continue to be cordial and friendly toward her. She will most likely warm up to you when she sees that her son is happy and you are all a family. — Dr. Sherry
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